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President Crow wants the county-wide mask mandate to stay

In a letter to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, Michael Crow said a mask policy is needed to 'stay the course' in limiting COVID-19 spread

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ASU President Michael Crow meets with The State Press editorial board on Wednesday, March 4, 2020, at the Fulton Center on the Tempe campus.

ASU President Michael Crow told the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors he wants a county-wide mask mandate to stay and changes to or the repeal of it would harm city and school communities.

In a letter sent Wednesday, Crow said the mask mandate has been one of the most effective tools to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and is worried about changes to it or its repeal in the next 90 days. 

"The repeal or modification of these regulations at this time would not be in the best interests of the people of Maricopa County," he said in the letter. 

On March 11, Gov. Doug Ducey issued a declaration of a public health emergency in the state and since June 20 in Maricopa County, most citizens must wear a face covering on public transportation, in enclosed public spaces and while working in close proximity with others. 

Only eight exemptions exist for the rule, including no requirement to wear a mask inside a private residence or while drinking or eating in public.  

As COVID-19 numbers stabilize in Arizona, some cities have looked toward relaxing mask-wearing guidelines. Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane rescinded the city's mask mandate on Sept. 21, but residents still have to wear masks in public places since Maricopa County's mandate is still in effect.

Crow's letter lists the establishment of the Community of Care and development of saliva-based testing as ways the ASU community has contributed to educating residents of Maricopa County about the coronavirus. 

Crow's letter lists five reasons for keeping the mask mandate in place with no additional changes: COVID-19 is not going away, masks work, masking is supported by Maricopa County residents, masking is an economic development strategy and the county would suffer spikes in cases if the mandate is lifted.

While the number of active COVID-19 cases within the ASU community is continuing to trend downward, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Friday there have been 322,741 infections in the last seven days across the U.S.

The Arizona Department of Health Services reported 894 new cases and 13 additional deaths Saturday, bringing the state totals to 224,978 cases and 5,759 deaths across the state. 

Adapting to life with COVID-19 should become the norm with "planning for the active spread and infection of people throughout Maricopa County for at least another 18 months," Crow said in the letter. 

Crow does not have a medical degree or health-related experience but has a background in science and technology policy. 

Crow's letter cites research from the Journal of the American Medical Association and Health Affairs that support "the effectiveness of the widespread use of masks in reducing the spread and management of COVID-19," he said. 

Students living in residence halls or visiting campus for classes were given a free kit with two masks, hand sanitizer and a thermometer in coordination with the University's goal to create a "Community of Care."

Crow's letter claims the majority of people in Maricopa County support the mask mandate in order "to carry out a very simple and inexpensive practice that protects them and their families, friends and colleagues from a virus that we otherwise can't control," he said. 

A 2019 economic impact report created for the Arizona Board of Regents by ASU's Knowledge Enterprise showed the University had a $3.8 billion economic impact on Arizona's gross product in fiscal year 2017. The report said 231,000 University graduates worked in Arizona in 2016 and paid approximately $1 billion in state and local taxes that year. 

The letter also claims a mask mandate has allowed COVID-19 cases, related illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths to decrease so business can continue to operate. 

"I do understand there are those in our community who are loud and vocal in the assertion of dogmatic views about the inconvenience and annoyance (of wearing a mask)," Crow said in the letter. "But, this is certainly a time in which those of us who have agreed to lead (...) must be committed to finding the right balance to advance out economic and social well-being."

Without a mask mandate, Crow said renewed spikes in COVID-19 cases would be likely and a return to "normal" life would be delayed. Crow said firm and absolute policy and its implementation are essential in avoiding a rise in COVID-19 cases — something some other states and countries have failed to do. 

"Achieving the balanced objectives of economic success and a healthy community requires that we stay the course rather than relax our response," Crow said. 

Reach the reporter at and follow @piperjhansen on Twitter. 

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